Category Archives: Feast Days

“Gleaning” on the Epiphany – 2021

In this post I am gleaning past posts on The Epiphany – with a nod to  Jean-François Millet.

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Welcome to “read the Bible – expand your mind:”

This blog has four main themes. The first is that God will accept anyone. (See John 6:37.) The second is that God wants us to live lives of abundance. (John 10:10.) The third is that God wants us to do even greater miracles than Jesus. (John 14:12.) The fourth – and most overlooked – is that Jesus wants us to read the Bible with an open mind. See Luke 24:45: “Then He” – Jesus – “opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.”

And this thought ties them together:

The best way to live abundantly and do greater miracles than Jesus is: Read, study and apply the Bible with an open mind. For more see the notes or – to expand your mind – see the Intro.

In the meantime:

Today, Wednesday, January 6, we celebrate the feast of The Epiphany. (It was also the day Congress (was supposed to) Count Electoral Votes, as that count affects last November’s presidential election, but that’s a whole ‘nother story entirely.*)

So this year’s Epiphany will be yet another “like no other” in American history. (For reasons both a bit surprising and yet reasonably foreseeable. And continuing a concept in line with 2020 – A Christmas like no other?) In turn, while the “secular” Electoral College count will be delayed – though only temporarily – we can still celebrate Epiphany. To review, that is the “Christian feast day that celebrates the revelation (theophany) of God incarnate as Jesus Christ.”

And that’s an idea that can definitely put things in perspective. (As in, “This too shall pass.”)

On that note, I’ve picked three earlier posts to glean from. (Seeking past “nuggets” on the Feast day.) And gleaning is now a term with multiple meanings. Originally it meant to “collect (grain, grapes, etc.) left behind after the main harvest or gathering.” Or to gather what was left in a field or vineyard. (As in the painting by Jean-François Millet, The Gleaners, at the top of the page. See also Ruth 2:2, and following: “Let me go to the field so that I may glean among the ears of grain behind,” illustrated at right.)  But now it can also mean to “gather information in small amounts,” though sometimes with implied difficulty.

So, back to the past posts. From 2016, Epiphany, circumcision, and “3 wise guys.” From two years later, Happy Epiphany – 2018. And from last year – which seems a decade ago – My recent Utah trip – and “3 Wise Guys.” That 2016 post noted January 6 is also called Three Kings’ Day. The post includes lot of information on those three kings – or wise men – and also on how that day ties in to the Feast of the Circumcision of Christ. (January 1, also known as “National Hangover Day.”) The 2016 post also has lots of background on that particular ritual…

(That is, circumcision, not hangovers.)

As to Happy Epiphany – 2018, it said January 6 is also known as the last of the 12 Days of Christmas. (To confuse things more, the evening of January 5 is “12th Night.”) Then too, it pointed out that the word “epiphany” can also refer to an appearance, a displaying, a showing forth, or “a making clear or public or obvious.” (On the question whether today’s “violence and anarchy” came under the heading “reasonably foreseeable.” See also Twitter blocks Trump for 12 hours, threatens permanent suspension. “Ya think?”)

Which brings us back to “just last year – which seems like a decade ago – My recent Utah trip.” Aside from discussing the circumcision aspect of the January 1st holiday, it also noted this:

. . . the end of an old year and beginning of a New Year is also a time to recall the events of that past year gone by, and 2019 was definitely a year of pilgrimage for me. Like my trip last May to Jerusalem and the Holy Land. (See “On to JerusalemOn my first full day in Jerusalem, or type in “Jerusalem” in the search box above right.)

So the Utah winter trip came at the end of a pilgrimage-filled 2019. Another example was my September 2019 trip to Portugal, for a 160-mile hike on the Portuguese Way (of the Camino de Santiago), from Porto to Santiago. (Type “Portugal” in the search box.) However, “my most recent pilgrimage was a 15-day drive out to and back from my brother’s house in Utah.”

All of those were great trips – great pilgrimages – in hindsight. But as for recalling “the events of that (last) past year gone by” – that is, the pandemic-plagued year 2020 – my response is “No, thank you!” It’s time to move on. (And come to think of it, I’m not too crazy about the “Capitol” events of January 6, 2021 either.) But getting back to last year’s mid-winter trip out to Utah. (As in a kind of Foretaste of the Heavenly Banquet to Come. Here referring metaphorically to the time when we can once again take long road trips and travel overseas.)

That mid-winter trip included getting snowed in at a Motel 6 in Grand Island, Nebraska, with a view of a near-frozen North Platte River from my motel window, as shown below. But it also included a great burger and two draft beers at the Thunder Road Grill at the truck stop next door. So the way I figure, “there’s some kind of lesson there!

Here’s hoping for a much better 2021 (starting tomorrow)…

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The upper image is courtesy of The Gleaners – Wikipedia.

Re: “A whole ‘nother story.” See e.g. ‘Violence and anarchy.’ Chaos erupts following Trump’s unprecedented effort to overturn Biden’s election win.

Re: “This too shall pass.” The link is to 33 Encouraging Quotes for Times of Crisis | Inc.com. Some of my new favorites (from the site): “Any kind of crisis can be good. It wakes you up,” and “Close scrutiny will show that most ‘crisis situations’ are opportunities to either advance, or stay where you are.” Which is being interpreted: We will come out of today’s “crisis” stronger than before.

The painting of Ruth is courtesy of Wikipedia.

I took the photo at the end of the main text, of “Grand Island” outside my Motel 6 window, as noted. I also took a photo of my glasses on the bar next to a half-empty glass of draft beer. (The Motel 6 in question was at 7301 Bosselman Ave, Grand Island, NE. Next door was a full service trucker’s station, with a bar and grill. The full link to the “Thunder Road” website is Thunder Road Grill | Pizza, Wings & Burgers | Grand Island, NE.)

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As noted in the opening blurb, this blog has four main themes. The first is that God will accept anyone. (John 6:37, with the added-on phrase, “Anyone who comes to Him.”) The second is that God wants us to live abundantly.  (John 10:10.) The third is that we should do greater miracles than Jesus. (John 14:12). A fourth theme: The only way to do all that is read the Bible with an open mindSee the Wikipedia article, which talks about its opposite:

…closed-mindedness, or an unwillingness to consider new ideas, can result from the brain’s natural dislike for ambiguity. According to this view, the brain has a “search and destroy” relationship with ambiguity and evidence contradictory to people’s current beliefs tends to make them uncomfortable… Research confirms that belief-discrepant-closed-minded persons have less tolerance for cognitive inconsistency

See also Splitting (psychology) – Wikipedia, on the phenomenon also called black-and-white thinking, “the failure in a person’s thinking to bring together the dichotomy of both positive and negative qualities of the self and others into a cohesive, realistic whole. It is a common defense mechanism. The individual tends to think in extremes (i.e., an individual’s actions and motivations are all good or all bad with no middle ground).

So anyway, in plain words this blog takes issue with boot-camp Christians. The Biblical literalists who never go “beyond the fundamentals.” But the Bible offers so much more than their narrow reading can offer… (Unless you want to stay a Bible buck private all your life…) Now about “Boot-camp Christians.” See for example, Conservative Christian – “Career buck private?” The gist of that post is that starting the Bible is like Army Basic Training. You begin by“learning the fundamentals.” But after boot camp, you move on to Advanced Individual Training.” And as noted in the opening blurb, this blog has four main themes. The first is that God will accept anyone. (John 6:37, with the added, “Anyone who comes to Him.”) The second is that God wants us to live abundantly. (John 10:10.) The third is that we should do greater miracles than Jesus. (John 14:12). A fourth theme: The only way to do all that is read the Bible with an open mind

For more about “Boot-camp Christians” see Conservative Christian – “Career buck private?” And as noted in “Buck private,” I’d previously said the theme of this blog was that if you really want to be all that you can be, you need to go on and explore the “mystical side of Bible reading.*” In other words, exploring the mystical side of the Bible helps you “be all that you can be.” See Slogans of the U.S. Army – Wikipedia, re: the recruiting slogan from 1980 to 2001. The image below is courtesy of: “toywonders.com/productcart/pc/catalog/aw30.jpg.” 

http://www.toywonders.com/productcart/pc/catalog/aw30.jpg

Re: “mystical.”  As originally used, mysticism “referred to the Biblical liturgical, spiritual, and contemplative dimensions of early and medieval Christianity.”  See Mysticism – Wikipedia, and the post On originalism.  (“That’s what the Bible was originally about!”)

For an explanation of the Daily Office – where “Dorscribe” came from – see What’s a DOR?

2020 – A Christmas like no other?

“Seattle police wearing masks in December 1918.” Is 2020 a case of deja vu all over again?

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It’s Christmas Eve Day, 2020. Which leads to the question: “Is our Christmas Day in this crazy, pandemic-plagued year of 2020 truly one ‘like no other?'”

The answer? “Actually, no.” There was for example Christmas in 1918…

Which led me to this article, Was Christmas celebrated during the 1918 Spanish Flu?

A largely unheeded warning from 1918…

For some background, the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic started in February that year and lasted until April, 1920. (So, roughly two years and two months?) And in another “deja vu all over again,” the culprit was the H1N1 flu virus. (It also caused the 2009 swine flu pandemic.)

But back to 1918, when there was a little thing called World War I going on. The first recorded such “flu” case in the United States was said to come on March 4, 1918. “Albert Gitchell, an army cook” at Camp Funston in Kansas. (Although there were probably some cases before him.) First seen in Haskell County, Kansas, in January 1918, a local doctor warned the US Public Health Service, to no avail. Within days, 522 men at Camp Funston had reported sick, and by March 11, 1918, the virus had reached Queens, New York. And in a sign of things to be repeated:

Failure to take preventive measures in March/April was later criticized.

But wait, there’s more! Because the war was raging, censors minimized early reports. That is, they did so in the major countries involved in the war, but not in neutral Spain. There, reports of the disease weren’t censored, which is why the epidemic got the name “Spanish flu.”

From Camp Funston the disease spread through the American Expeditionary Forces, who brought it to Europe and the Western Front by mid-April, 1918. It then spread from France to Great Britain, Italy, Spain and beyond. After the March Treaty of Brest-Litovsk – between Germany and Russia – “Germany started releasing Russian prisoners of war, who then brought the disease to their country.” From there it spread to the rest of the world in four “waves,” with a much-deadlier second wave in late 1918. (With a third wave in 1919 and a fourth in 1920.) 

Later that year – on November 11, 1918 – the war ended, and people were so happy they “couldn’t be stopped from gathering to celebrate.” Then too the number of Spanish Flu cases went down toward the end of 1918, so restrictions were eased and many churches “swelled with the joyous music of the [Christmas] season once again.” But as one site noted, “History suggests that celebrating holidays during a pandemic by gathering in large groups, as one might during normal times, could have harmful and long-lasting effects.”

Which may explain the second, third and fourth “waves.” On the other hand, back then “they” had some advantages, as noted in A Look Back at Christmas During the Spanish Flu Pandemic. For one thing, Americans in 1918 were “much more familiar with epidemic disease:”

… epidemic disease was very familiar to the early 20th century public. Families, many of which had lost a child to diphtheria or watched a loved one suffer from polio, were generally willing to comply with some limitations on their activities. Most public health departments wore badges and had police powers, and this was generally uncontroversial. “They could forcibly quarantine you or put you on a quarantine station on an island.”

So much for the “advantage” being familiar with deadly epidemic diseases. But at least they were “willing to comply with some limitations on their activities.” And another point to remember is that – be all that as it may – the United States and the world survived. So much so that if it hadn’t been for this year’s COVID-19 pandemic – illustrated at right – few people today would have any reason to recall the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic.

Which brings up a link from my last post, December 2020 – and “Bad things to good people?” The gist of that link – Bad Things to Good People? | Psychology Today – was its “scientific” answer: That “the universe has no inherent purpose or design.”

However, the pointy-headed scientist-slash-probably-an-atheist-as-well who came up with that conclusion did offer up some good advice. (Bless his heart,” as we say in Georgia):

There is much we can do to alleviate each other’s suffering when adversity strikes. Our support and empathy toward our fellow human beings in their time of need helps them not only materially but demonstrates to them that they matter… When we act kindly, it also gives meaning to our own life, as we see that we matter to others.

All of which is pretty much what Christians are supposed to do anyway. (Show empathy, try to alleviate the suffering of others.) And which was pretty much the point of Another view of Jesus feeding the 5,000. That rather than waiting on God to perform some miracle, we should get to work on the problem ourselves. Which brings up the “Christmas spirit.”

I Googled “what is the Christmas spirit” and got 4,180,000 results. Here’s one answer I liked, from What is Christmas Spirit? – Scientific American Blog Network:

The code of generosity, kindness, and charity toward others is enforced by no one other than ourselves. There are places where this code is strong, and these places (or people) are said to have strong Christmas spirit… After all, we are the sum of the individuals around us who generate the collective force that governs and organizes our social structure… When we “act out” Christmas spirit, we’re making visible this collective force, and we give it power.

Then there’s Christmas Spirit – Its Real Meaning | 7th Sense, which defined that spirit in three simple actions: Giving, Appreciating, and Doing service. Which is pretty much the same advice “pointy-headed scientist-slash-probably-an-atheist-as-well” offered a few paragraphs back…

And which is pretty much the conclusion I came to back on April 25, when I posted On St. Mark, 2020 – and today’s “plague.” Aside from the then-new COVID pandemic, it spoke of Mark’s “shorter” and more abrupt ending. (The one where, “Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb.” I.e., without the account of His resurrection.) I said maybe the point of “both today’s Covid-19 ‘persecution’ and Jesus’ seemingly unexplained death – with ‘Mark’ ending at Mark 16:8 – have the capacity to be mysteries.”

Such “mysteries” – and even pandemics – seem to be a part of life. But from them we can learn valuable lessons, like how to develop and grow stronger, spiritually and otherwise. Which means the “answer” to such mysteries largely depends on us. “What will we do with this unexpected calamity? Will we go forward and grow stronger, or turn back the clock and start turning on each other?” In turn, “our” Covid-19 can remind us of our “fragility as human beings,” as noted in a quote from The Plague by Camus, in Part 1, early in the book:

Everybody knows that pestilences have a way of recurring in the world; yet somehow we find it hard to believe in ones that crash down on our heads from a blue sky. There have been as many plagues as wars in history; yet always plagues and wars take people equally by surprise.

Which certainly seems true of this latest 2020 pestilence. It certainly came as a surprise. Which brings up a book review from the Salt Lake Tribune on “The Plague,” with this relevant point:

Being alive always was and will always remain an emergency; it is truly an inescapable “underlying condition…” This is what Camus meant when he talked about the “absurdity” of life. Recognizing this absurdity should lead us not to despair but to a tragicomic redemption, a softening of the heart, a turning away from judgment and moralizing to joy and gratitude.

One possible lesson? The current pestilence might lead to a massive change in our present national life, and especially our national political life. The present Coronavirus might lead to a general and sweeping American “softening of the heart.” So with all that in mind:

Merry Christmas, 2020, and may 2021 be a WHOLE lot better!

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A “time of pestilence” can show there are more things to admire in people than to despise…

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The upper image is courtesy of Wikipedia on the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic.

The “influenza” image was accompanied by a caption: “Rules to reduce the spread of Spanish flu posting by the US Public Health Service. Cough or sneeze into your mouth with a handkerchief, avoid crowded places, do not spit, do not share the use of cups and napkins…. Typographic poster; Unites States, Washington, DC 1918. (Photo by Fototeca Gilardi/Getty Images).”

The image “COVID-19 – illustrated at right” is captioned: “A testing team responds to a confirmed case in a nursing home in Charleston, West Virginia.”

The lower image is courtesy of The Plague – Wikipedia

December 2020 – and “Bad things to good people?”

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It’s mid-December, 2020. At such times – near the end of a given year – people tend to look back. They look back at what happened in that year just past. Or maybe we take a look back at “this time last year.” Sometimes it helps to see what a difference a year makes. Or recall what we were doing and thinking “this time last year.”

So – in looking back over posts from “this time last year” – I came across an unfinished draft. That is, a post I started, but never finished. The tentative title? “Bad things to good people?” Which may have been a bit of foreshadowing. That is, it may have been an early “indication of what is to come.” (2020 has been a crazy year…)

The last time I modified the post was December 15, 2019, a year ago. So now – after our crazy, pandemic-plagued year of 2020 – seems like a good time to bring the topic up to date… I started the “bad things to good people” post off with this:

It struck me recently [in December 2019] that sometimes – when it seems that “bad things happen to good people” – God isn’t punishing us. Maybe He’s just trying to get us back on the right track, in the only way He has available. Usually through negative feedback. In the manner of a sheep dog “nipping at the heels” of a member of His flock.

The point is that through the Bible, God’s been saying for years how we should act, what we should do. But when we don’t pay attention – when that fails – the only option He has left is to resort to that negative feedback. Which brings up the difference between negative and positive feedback. Put simply, what if – instead of having to be told constantly what not to do – you could get positive feedback from God that tells you should do in the first place?

(You know, besides the stuff that’s already in the Bible.) In other words, if you “learned to speak God’s language.” That’s where the Bible comes in, and why it pays to actually read the Bible…

That brings up a theme I’ve tried to advance in this blog: That studying the Bible is a good way to get that positive feedback from God. (To “learn His language.”) If you read and study long enough, you can figure out what God wants before He has to use negative feedback.

Which brings up What the Bible says about Sheep as Metaphor. One point? Sheep are really stupid. The only way they ever get going in the right direction is to have a sheep dog “nipping” at their heels. So my point: Read and study the Bible. It’s a whole lot easier on the heels…

Getting back to the “negatives” of 2020, check a review in 2020 events so far: Yep, these all happened this year. (From the New York Post). Australian brush fires, beginning December 2019 and extending into 2020. (Burning a record 47 million acres and killing at least 34 people.) Kobe Bryant’s death, Donald Trump’s impeachment (and whitewash). Blacks Lives Matter protests. An exceedingly nasty presidential election. And of course the COVID-19 pandemic and the 2020 stock market crash that followed.

So what “right track” could God try to get us back on? Especially in the U.S., where the death toll from COVID is approaching 292,000? (See COVID updates: US death toll surpasses World War II combat fatalities.) If I had to guess, I’d use three little words (and an addendum):

Lack of compassion – and too much hate!

If that’s too subtle, here in simpler terms: “Stop hating so much, and show a whole lot more compassion than you’ve shown the past year!” But that’s already in the Bible. (See Matthew 5:44 and Luke 6:28. And What does the Bible say about compassion, especially 1st John 4:20, that if “we say we love God and don’t love each other, we are liars. We cannot see God. So how can we love God, if we don’t love the people we can see?”)

Which brings us back to “stupid sheep.” Consider Why does God call us sheep? – Blogger, or What is the significance of sheep in the Bible? The latter’s reasons for the metaphor included that sheep don’t “have a defense system” and are helpless without a shepherd. Also:

. . . sheep are notorious for following the leader, regardless of how dangerous or foolish that [leader] may be. Like sheep, human beings are extremely gullible when an attractive or charismatic leader promises a shiny new idea. History is replete with tragic illustrations of the “herd mentality” in action (Acts 13:5019:34Numbers 16:2).

Following a dangerous or foolish leader? (Instead of sticking to the eternal truths of the Bible?) “Extremely gullible?” Charismatic leader? Shiny new idea? “Herd mentality?” All these sound very familiar. But getting back to why bad things can happen to good people. Or why “God” might have “sent the Coronavirus.” Or why the reminder to have more compassion…

One precedent from the Bible? The Massacre of the Innocents, which we remember on December 28, three days after Christmas. (This year “transferred” to the 29th, as Holy Innocents.) There, on hearing of Jesus’ birth, “Herod the Greatking of Judea, orders the execution of all male children two years old and under in the vicinity of Bethlehem.”

So why did all those male infants have to die, near the time of Jesus’ birth? Or for that matter, why did some 292,000 Americans have to die in the past year, from COVID?

One answer came in When Bad Things Happen to Good People, the 1981 book by Harold Kushner, “a Conservative rabbi.” The gist of his book was that God is benevolent but not all-powerful to prevent evil. “God does his best and is with people in their suffering, but is not fully able to prevent it.” Which brings up Finite God Theodicy

“Finite God Theodicy maintains that God is all-good (omnibenevolent) but not all-powerful,” while theodicy in general tries to answer why God permits evil. (Or COVID.) It’s a “theological construct” trying to “vindicate God in response to the evidential problem of evil that seems inconsistent with the existence of an omnipotent and omnibenevolent deity.”

Another answer – ostensibly – can be seen in Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People? | Psychology Today, posted in October 2019. That review of Kushner’s book – by Ralph Lewis M.D., a “scientific thinker” – answered bluntly, “Bad things happen for the same reason anything happens.” He listed Kushner’s answer, to “drop the belief in God’s omnipotence.” And to accept his “scientific” conclusion, that the universe has no inherent purpose or design.

I don’t buy it, for reasons including those listed in May 2019’s “As a spiritual exercise,” and the recent Unintended consequence – and ‘Victory O Lord!’ But then there’s a post from 2015, On the wisdom of Virgil – and an “Angel.” It talked about some wisdom I gleaned – from both Virgil the old Roman poet, and a “‘Frisco” Hell’s Angel named Magoo. And Professor Timothy Shutt, who said our human minds are just too limited to ever fully understand “God:”

We are simply not up to the task, not wired for such an overload. We are no more prepared to comprehend an answer than – to make use of a memorable example – cats are prepared to study calculus. It’s just not in our nature.

That is, Virgil took issue with the “all or nothing” idea that either there’s a God who controls all things, or that there must be no God at all. (That “chance or strictly natural forces give rise to all that we see around us.”) Another name for that “all or nothing” approach is  splitting, or in more familiar terms “black and white thinking.”  

I discuss that phenomenon routinely in the notes below. In plain words, the human brain doesn’t like ambiguity. Or for that matter cognitive inconsistency. The human brain would much rather think in black-and-white terms than deal with Virgil’s nuanced approach. And Virgil crystallized his spiritual “sense of things” in the Aeneid, Book III:

Divine order could be seen in some things, but other things more or less just happened. This is not a view we tend to share, but it does make a certain sense… [A]n overarching order at work in the world, a final coherence in the way that things work. But it remains out of human reach, and despite our efforts, we can merely come to know it only in part…

So one of my conclusions? That compared to God most of us humans are “really stupid sheep.”

On the other hand some of us take the time to read and study the Bible, with an open mind. And so we realize that however much we learn – from the Bible and life experience – we can never fully comprehend “God.” Which means we can reject the idea of an unpowerful God who “does His best” but can’t – or won’t – prevent human suffering. And reject the “black and white” idea that either God is all-powerful or that there is no God, and so human life is totally random, without any meaning or purpose. (On that note see The True Test of Faith.)

As to that idea we can never fully comprehend “God?” There’s one answer: “Not yet anyway.” In the meantime, keep reading the Bible with an eye to getting that positive feedback.

It’s a whole lot easier on the heels…

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“You’re going the wrong way, you stupid sheep!”

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The upper image is courtesy of When Bad Things Happen Good People – Image Results.

As to what all this means about what “we” can do about the Coronavirus, “Psychology Today’s” Dr. Lewis had one good answer, that we “rely on each other:”

There is much we can do to alleviate each other’s suffering when adversity strikes. Our support and empathy toward our fellow human beings in their time of need helps them not only materially but demonstrates to them that they matter and that what happens to them has an emotional impact on us. When we act kindly, it also gives meaning to our own life, as we see that we matter to others.

Which is actually a very “Christian” thought. And which was pretty much my point in Another view of Jesus feeding the 5,000. To wit: That it would be a greater miracle if Jesus “got a bunch of normally-greedy people to share what they had,” rather than simply performing a routine magic trick.  

Re: December 28. See also Feast of the Holy Innocents (Britannica):

The feast is observed by Western churches on December 28 and in the Eastern churches on December 29. The slain children were regarded by the early church as the first martyrs, but it is uncertain when the day was first kept as a saint’s day. It may have been celebrated with Epiphany, but by the 5th century it was kept as a separate festival. In Rome it was a day of fasting and mourning.

As indicated in the main text, this “feast” was transferred from the 28th to the 29th. This year the day for St John, Apostle and Evangelist – normally December 28 – was transferred to Monday; standard procedure when such a feast day falls on a Sunday.

For more on metaphors see e.g. Famous Metaphors in The Bible – Literary Devices. Metaphors turn difficult ideas into simple concepts. Metaphors also infuse written text with vivid descriptions that make the text more vibrant and enjoyable to read.

Here are some thoughts from the 2019 rough draft, included for completeness:

The point of all this is that normally – based on our own shortcomings – God has no way of telling us directly “the way we should go.” He can only direct us through negative feedback, telling us where not to go, in the manner of a sheep dog. He can only get through to us by a process of elimination... Which can be very difficult for us to comprehend. When we don’t get our way, or when we think we’ve done the Right Thing and that “God owes us,” we get mad when “bad things” happen.

See also The Gospel reading for May 4, with this about the “way of the sheep:”

Hearing now and again the mysterious piping of the Shepherd, you realize your own perpetual forward movement . . . and so are able to handle life with a surer hand.  Do not suppose from this that your new career is to be perpetually supported by agreeable spiritual contacts, or occupy itself in the mild contemplation of the great world through which you move.  True, it is said of the Shepherd that he carries the lambs in his bosom; but the sheep are expected to walk, and to put up with the bunts and blunders of the flock.  It is to vigour rather than comfort that you are called.

The lower image is courtesy of Sheep Dog Nipping Heels – Image Results. The image came with an article, “Social sheepdogs: nipping and nudging into the mainstream,” about the “sheep-dog-like” behavior of sports team-mates of the writer’s adolescent special-needs son.

December 2020, Advent, and a “new beginning…”

For one November event I’m thankful for finishing, see “(Some of) My Adventures in Old Age…”

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It all started with the Election That Seemed Like It Would Never End, followed by the Election Legal Challenges That Seem Like They Will Never End. In the meantime we’ve also celebrated Thanksgiving Day on November 26, followed by the Feast Day for St Andrew, Apostle. (Shown at left.)

That was last Monday, November 30. And aside from all that, Christmas is coming up three weeks from Friday, December 4. Which is preceded by the Season of Advent, which itself started last Sunday, November 29, in the First Sunday of Advent. About that “First Sunday,” see Boston College‘s Matthew Monnig: 

Advent … calls us to look back to the past, forward to the future, upwards to heaven, and downwards to earth. It is a time of anticipation… The first Sunday of Advent is the start of a new liturgical year, and yet there is a continuity with the end of the liturgical year just finished… One does not have to be a prophet of doom to recognize that this year [2020] has been filled with terrible events… We need God to come and fix a broken world. The season of Advent is about [the] “devout and expectant delight” that God will do that.

So the Season of Advent is about looking ahead and New Beginnings, which brings up my “hope-fully” spending November preparing a new book for publication – in both an e-book and paperback – as detailed in the November 18 post, On “(Some of) My Adventures in Old Age.” (Which actually was a lot of fun, remembering and writing about all those great travel adventures and pilgrimages I enjoyed – back before the COVID hit…)

But getting back to those upcoming Feast Days and Liturgical Seasons. I’ve covered them in posts like An early Advent medley, from 2015, and On Andrew – “First Apostle” – and Advent, from 2016. And by the way, in the Daily Office set of Bible readings, next Monday – December 7, 2020 – is the Feast Day of Ambrose of Milan. So it looks like another busy month…

But first, remembering Thanksgiving: Past posts include On the first Thanksgiving – Part I and Part IIThanksgiving 2015Thanksgiving – 2016Thanksgiving – 2017, and On Thanksgiving 2019. I started off the latter (2019) post with this: “Things have been hectic since I got back last September 25th from my 19-day, 160-mile hike on the Camino de Santiago. See On Saints James, Luke – and the lovelies of Portugal, along with Just got back – Portuguese Camino!”

Then it went on to discuss an “Old Testament reading from Isaiah 19:19-25 … of a future highway, running from Egypt to Assyria and vice versa, and which will eventually lead to something new under the sun: ‘when the Egyptians will worship with the Assyrians:’”

On that day Israel will be the third with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth, whom the Lord of hosts has blessed, saying, ‘Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel my heritage.’

One problem? At the time the Assyrians and Egyptians were arch-enemies, with each other and with Israel. (Which they took turns conquering.) “Which means this passage looks forward to an ultimate day of peace and harmony, between those nations which were at the time bitter enemies.” So here’s hoping that that reading may be a bit of positive foreshadowing.

Heck, if Israel could have gotten along with either the Egyptians or Assyrians, today’s Democrats and Republicans should be able to get along too. (They are after all, fellow citizens of the same country.) Which brings us back to the theme Advent [as] The Season of Hope:

This year, more than ever, we really need to focus on hope! We have been bruised and battered by the COVID-19 pandemic, a polarizing election, racial strife, and so much more. 

The point being that “Advent is always a season of hope, a season that reminds us never to lose sight of the hope we Christians are called to live with year-round.” 

So here’s looking forward to a happy and much-better 2021!

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The upper image is courtesy of Chilkoot Trail – Image Results, and was featured in the previous post.

Re: Other Feast Days coming up: As noted, next Monday – December 7, 2020 – is the Feast Day of Ambrose of Milan, in the Daily Office. (See What’s a DOR?) And also An early Advent medley. That post noted that Ambrose is one of “Eight Doctors of the Church” and four “Fathers of the Western Church,” and that “perhaps his greatest work was converting St. Augustine of Hippo.”

The lower image is courtesy of Looking Forward 2021 – Image Results. The image accompanied an article, New Cruise Ships To Look Forward To In 2021 – Cruise Bulletin.

On Halloween 2020 – “Scariest ever?”

Can you say, “Truer words were never spoken?

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Welcome to “read the Bible – expand your mind:”

This blog has four main themes. The first is that God will accept anyone. (See John 6:37.) The second is that God wants us to live lives of abundance. (John 10:10.) The third is that God wants us to do even greater miracles than Jesus. (John 14:12.) The fourth – and most overlooked – is that Jesus wants us to read the Bible with an open mind. See Luke 24:45: “Then He” – Jesus – “opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.”

And this thought ties them together:

The best way to live abundantly and do greater miracles than Jesus is: Read, study and apply the Bible with an open mind. For more see the notes or – to expand your mind – see the Intro.

In the meantime:

Welcome to Halloween 2020. Which as it turns out, is a Halloween Like We’ve Never Seen!

With the convergence of a full moon, a blue (Hunter’s) Moon [seen below left], daylight saving time and Saturday celebrations — plus the unprecedented events of this year — Halloween 2020 will truly be one to remember. 

See also Halloween: CDC says no trick-or-treating amid COVID. (“Many traditional Halloween activities can be high-risk for spreading viruses.”) On the other hand, there is also that election coming up three days later. Not to mention the article with the photo at the top of the page:

While the presidential election, economic recession and ongoing coronavirus pandemic have made 2020 a notoriously bad year for many, [James] Worsham has felt personally targeted with his bad luck: A March tornado destroyed his work studio and then the pandemic, as well as an insurance nightmare, forced him to close his business for four months… Yet, despite it all, he has managed to keep up a positive attitude.

On that note, we’ll return to some “tradition.” Like from last year when I posted The Halloween Triduum – 2019. Which led with a news flash: That Halloween isn’t just one day. It’s part of a “Triduum.” It’s one part of the “three days of Hallowe’en.” (Referred to as Allhallowtide. And Triduum is just a fancy Latin word for “three days.”)

 “Hallowe’en” came from the Old English word for “saint,” halig. (All Saints Day, November 1, was originally “All Hallow’s Day.”) Wikipedia noted that this three-day period is a “time to remember the dead. That, includes martyrssaints, and all faithful departed Christians.” The main day of the three is November 1, now “All Saints Day,” previously referred to as Hallowmas

It all started with an old-time belief that evil spirits were most prevalent during the long nights of winter. People back then thought the “barriers between our world and the spirit world” were lowest and most permeable the night of October 31:

So, those old-time people would wear masks or put on costumes in order to disguise their identities. The idea was to keep the afterlife “hallows” – ghosts or spirits – from recognizing the people in this, the “material world.”

You can see more about Halloween in that 2019 post. (And links therein, including but not limited to On the THREE days of Hallowe’en, from 2017. and On “All Hallows E’en” – 2016.) They include details of a strange ghostly light called ignis fatuus. (From the Medieval Latin for “foolish fire.”) That is, the “atmospheric ghost light seen by travelers at night, especially over bogs, swamps or marshes. It resembles a flickering lamp and is said to recede if approached:”

Or about the danger of traveling on All Hallows E’en.

If you were out from 11:00 p.m. to midnight, your had to be very careful. If your candle kept burning, that was a good omen. (The person holding the candle would be safe in the upcoming winter “season of darkness.”) But if the candle went out, that was “bad indeed.” (The thought was the candle was blown out by witches…)

But next comes November 1, All Saints Day. It honors “all the saints and martyrs, both known and unknown” who have gone on before us. I.e., special people in the Church. (A saint is defined as one “having an exceptional degree of holiness,” while a martyr is someone “killed because of their testimony of Jesus.”) Which leads to one prayer from an All Saint’s link:

Almighty God, who by your Holy Spirit have made us one with your saints in heaven and on earth: Grant that in our earthly pilgrimage we may always be supported by this fellowship of love and prayer, and know ourselves to be surrounded by their witness…

On the other hand, November 2 – All Souls’ Day – honors “all faithful Christians … unknown in the wider fellowship of the church, especially family members and friends.’”  In other words, the rest of us poor schmucks. (Those who will die but likely not be remembered, much.)

That is, that third day of the Halloween Triduum – November 2 – is All Souls’ Day.  The original idea was to remember the souls of “the dear departed,” illustrated by the painting below. Observing Christians typically remember deceased relatives on the day, and – in many churches – the following Sunday service includes a memorial for all who died in the past year.

All of which makes the Good News of Halloween. (I.e., we “know ourselves to be surrounded by their witness,” the witness of the departed.) Accordingly, here’s wishing you:

A Happy “All Hallow’s E’en!”

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In two months we’ll say “Goodbye” to 2020. And probably “Good riddance!

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The upper image is courtesy of Halloween 2020 – Image Results. The image accompanies an article, posted on October 24, “Man thinks of ‘the scariest thing’ for his Halloween 2020 decor.” Which led to an article about the “blue moon:”

Get ready, witches and warlocks. This October 31, there’s a full moon occurring in Taurus, and it’s extra special. This lunar event is called a “blue moon” because it’s the second full moon we’ll experience in the month of October. Not, it won’t actually appear blue, but it’s rare — hence the phrase “once in a blue moon” — and astrologically, very powerful.

The lower image is courtesy of All Souls’ Day – WikipediaThe caption: “All Souls’ Day by William Bouguereau.”  See also Allhallowtide, and All Saints’ Day – Wikipedia. My original caption, from Triduum – 2019, was “The ‘Three Days of Halloween‘ end November 2, with All Souls’ Day.”

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As noted in the opening blurb, this blog has four main themes. The first is that God will accept anyone. (John 6:37, with the added-on phrase, “Anyone who comes to Him.”) The second is that God wants us to live abundantly.  (John 10:10.) The third is that we should do greater miracles than Jesus. (John 14:12). A fourth theme: The only way to do all that is read the Bible with an open mindSee the Wikipedia article, which talks about its opposite:

…closed-mindedness, or an unwillingness to consider new ideas, can result from the brain’s natural dislike for ambiguity. According to this view, the brain has a “search and destroy” relationship with ambiguity and evidence contradictory to people’s current beliefs tends to make them uncomfortable… Research confirms that belief-discrepant-closed-minded persons have less tolerance for cognitive inconsistency

See also Splitting (psychology) – Wikipedia, on the phenomenon also called black-and-white thinking, “the failure in a person’s thinking to bring together the dichotomy of both positive and negative qualities of the self and others into a cohesive, realistic whole. It is a common defense mechanism. The individual tends to think in extremes (i.e., an individual’s actions and motivations are all good or all bad with no middle ground).

So anyway, in plain words this blog takes issue with boot-camp Christians. The Biblical literalists who never go “beyond the fundamentals.” But the Bible offers so much more than their narrow reading can offer… (Unless you want to stay a Bible buck private all your life…) Now about “Boot-camp Christians.” See for example, Conservative Christian – “Career buck private?” The gist of that post is that starting the Bible is like Army Basic Training. You begin by“learning the fundamentals.” But after boot camp, you move on to Advanced Individual Training.” And as noted in the opening blurb, this blog has four main themes. The first is that God will accept anyone. (John 6:37, with the added, “Anyone who comes to Him.”) The second is that God wants us to live abundantly. (John 10:10.) The third is that we should do greater miracles than Jesus. (John 14:12). A fourth theme: The only way to do all that is read the Bible with an open mind

For more about “Boot-camp Christians” see Conservative Christian – “Career buck private?” And as noted in “Buck private,” I’d previously said the theme of this blog was that if you really want to be all that you can be, you need to go on and explore the “mystical side of Bible reading.*” In other words, exploring the mystical side of the Bible helps you “be all that you can be.” See Slogans of the U.S. Army – Wikipedia, re: the recruiting slogan from 1980 to 2001. The image below is courtesy of: “toywonders.com/productcart/pc/catalog/aw30.jpg.” 

http://www.toywonders.com/productcart/pc/catalog/aw30.jpg

Re: “mystical.”  As originally used, mysticism “referred to the Biblical liturgical, spiritual, and contemplative dimensions of early and medieval Christianity.”  See Mysticism – Wikipedia, and the post On originalism.  (“That’s what the Bible was originally about!”)

For an explanation of the Daily Office – where “Dorscribe” came from – see What’s a DOR?

St. Mary, 2020 – and “Walls of Separation…”

Mary (mother of Jesus) – who heeded God’s call “to set out on a mission of charity…”

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Welcome to “read the Bible – expand your mind:”

This blog has four main themes. The first is that God will accept anyone. (See John 6:37.) The second is that God wants us to live lives of abundance. (John 10:10.)  The third is that God wants us to do even greater miracles than Jesus did. (John 14:12.) The fourth – and largely overlooked – is that Jesus wants us to read the Bible with an open mind. See Luke 24:45: “Then He” – Jesus – “opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.”

And this thought ties them together:

The best way to live abundantly and do greater miracles than Jesus is – as noted – to read the Bible with an open mind. For more, see the notes or – to expand your mind – see the Intro.

In the meantime:

Finally, I get to do a fun post. Fun because it takes me back to last year’s St. Mary, “Virgin,” and more on Jerusalem. That’s because yesterday – August 15 – was the feast day of St. Mary the Virgin. (As celebrated in the Episcopal Church.) And it’s a reminder that last year I got to visit – among other places – Mary’s spring in Ein Kerem, in Israel. For more on this Mary see August 2014’s St. Mary, Mother, and Mary (mother of Jesus) – Wikipedia:

She is identified [as] the mother of Jesus through divine intervention. Christians hold her son Jesus to be Christ (i.e., the messiah) and God the Son Incarnate. Mary (Maryam) also has a revered position in Islam, where a whole chapter of the Qur’an is devoted to her, also describing the birth of Jesus… [She] is considered by millions to be the most meritorious saint of the Church. Christians of the Catholic Church[,] Anglican Communion, and Lutheran churches believe that Mary, as Mother of Jesus, is the Mother of God and the Theotokos, literally “Bearer of God.”

As for Ein Karem (at right, “in the Jerusalem hills”): According to tradition, it’s where Mary stopped for water while visiting John the Baptist’s parents. In turn, that’s when the soon-to-be born John “leaped” in the womb of his mother, Elizabeth. (Luke 1:41.)

And here’s what I wrote last year about that visit: “Thursday May 16[, 2019] we visited Ein Kerem, the Church of the Visitation and Mary’s spring.” After that we had lunch at the “Tent Restaurant, Beit Sahour” – a really good meal – then visited the Church of the Nativity and the “chapel” – and Cave – of St. Jerome, both in Bethlehem:

The church [including the cave] was both packed and crowded. There we stood a long while, waiting to do a hump-through-a-tunnel extension of the tour. It was then I noticed a fellow pilgrim in danger of getting stressed out by all the crowds and noise. So I did a Good-Samaritan thing – kind of – and persuaded him to join me at the garden restaurant next door – and have a prophylactic Taybeh (Palestinian) beer. 

In other words, you had a choice…

You could bend down and crawl through a small, dark, damp tunnel, with somebody’s rear-end right in front of you – and yours right in front of the face of the person behind you. Or you could do what I did and opt for some liquid refreshment. (In the process helping a stressed-out fellow pilgrim.) Of that episode I wrote later that in such situations you need to “pick your battles.” And that it always seemed to me that finding a spiritual breakthrough usually comes when you’re alone, not “surrounded and jostled by hordes of hot, sweaty and pushy ‘fellow travelers.’”

But we’re going a bit off on a tangent here…

Getting back to 2014’s St. Mary, Mother, it explained why she is often shown wearing blue, as in the top image. “In Renaissance paintings especially, Mary is portrayed wearing blue, a tradition going back to Byzantine Empire, to about 500 A.D., where blue was ‘the colour of an empress.'” Another explanation: In Medieval and Renaissance Europe they got blue pigment from lapis lazuli, “a stone imported from Afghanistan of greater value than gold… Hence, it was an expression of devotion and glorification to swathe the Virgin in gowns of blue.”

In turn the highlight of the day’s Bible readings is the Magnificat, beginning “My soul magnifies the Lord.” In Luke, Mary recites this hymn during her Visitation to her cousin Elizabeth. “In the narrative, after Mary greets Elizabeth, who is pregnant with the future John the Baptist, the child moves within Elizabeth’s womb. When Elizabeth praises Mary for her faith, Mary sings what is now known as the Magnificat in response.”

But of course Mary’s life wasn’t always – or maybe even that oftenjust a bowl of cherries. See for example the Seven Sorrows of Mary, including but not limited to the flight into Egypt, losing Jesus – at 12 years old – in the Temple, meeting Him carrying the cross, the Crucifixion and burial. “When Mary said ‘yes’ to bringing Jesus into the world, she took on both the joys and the pains that came with it. “

Which brings us back to Bethlehem, where Jesus was born, and to last year’s visit to Israel. And to my photo above left. That is, we ended Mary 16 – the same day we visited Mary’s Spring – at Bethlehem‘s Wall of Separation, also known as the “Israeli West Bank barrier.” And in a bit of sarcasm – or irony – we stopped at the “Walled Off Hotel.”

I took some photos of both the “Walled Off” and the Wall of Separation that runs right by it, and right through the City Of Jesus’ birth. Doing that I caught the expression of the Palestinian in the foreground of the photo above left, and later commented, “That look about says it all.*”

Then there was the irony of Bethlehem as where Jesus was born, and thus where “God’s love, mercy, righteousness, holiness, compassion, and glory” – expressed in Him – were to begin. “But seeing the Walled-off Hotel in His birthplace, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.”

And speaking of “Walls That Divide Us,” tomorrow – Monday, August 17 – will begin the Twenty-third full week of the COVID-19 pandemic. Here’s hoping that someday that “wall between us” will come down too, along with all the other walls that divide people, as expressed in Ephesians 2:14. Speaking of the wall that once (?) divided Jews and Gentiles, the Good News Translation reads, “For Christ himself has brought us peace by making Jews and Gentiles one people. With his own body he broke down the wall that separated them and kept them enemies.”

We could use lots more of that. The only problem is, we may have to do a lot of the work ourselves. Meanwhile, here’s my photo of “Mary’s Spring,” from last year:

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The upper image is courtesy of Mary (mother of Jesus) – Wikipedia. See also Mary’s spring in Ein Kerem – BibleWalks.com, and Ein Karem – Wikipedia.

As to weeks of the Covid pandemic, see for example  On St. Philip and St. James – May, 2020. There I explained that, to me, “the pandemic hit full swing – the ‘stuff really hit the fan’ – back on Thursday, March 12,” when the ACC basketball tournament got cancelled, along with other major sports. “So my definition of the ‘First Full Week of the Covid-19 Pandemic’ has it starting on Sunday, March 15 and ending on Saturday the 21st.” Or for my exercise and other weekly-quota routines, starting on Monday, March 16 and ending Sunday night, March 22d.

The lower photo I took myself during that trip to Israel last year. (2019.) And re: “That look about says it all,” here’s a bigger view of the photo:

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“That look about says it all.”

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As noted in the opening blurb, this blog has four main themes. The first is that God will accept anyone. (John 6:37, with the added-on phrase, “Anyone who comes to Him.”) The second is that God wants us to live abundantly.  (John 10:10.) The third is that we should do greater miracles than Jesus. (John 14:12). A fourth theme: The only way to do all that is read the Bible with an open mindSee the Wikipedia article, which talks about its opposite:

…closed-mindedness, or an unwillingness to consider new ideas, can result from the brain’s natural dislike for ambiguity. According to this view, the brain has a “search and destroy” relationship with ambiguity and evidence contradictory to people’s current beliefs tends to make them uncomfortable… Research confirms that belief-discrepant-closed-minded persons have less tolerance for cognitive inconsistency

See also Splitting (psychology) – Wikipedia, on the phenomenon also called black-and-white thinking, “the failure in a person’s thinking to bring together the dichotomy of both positive and negative qualities of the self and others into a cohesive, realistic whole. It is a common defense mechanism. The individual tends to think in extremes (i.e., an individual’s actions and motivations are all good or all bad with no middle ground).

So anyway, in plain words this blog takes issue with boot-camp Christians. The Biblical literalists who never go “beyond the fundamentals.” But the Bible offers so much more than their narrow reading can offer… (Unless you want to stay a Bible buck private all your life…) Now about “Boot-camp Christians.” See for example, Conservative Christian – “Career buck private?” The gist of that post is that starting the Bible is like Army Basic Training. You begin by“learning the fundamentals.” But after boot camp, you move on to Advanced Individual Training.” And as noted in the opening blurb, this blog has four main themes. The first is that God will accept anyone. (John 6:37, with the added, “Anyone who comes to Him.”) The second is that God wants us to live abundantly. (John 10:10.) The third is that we should do greater miracles than Jesus. (John 14:12). A fourth theme: The only way to do all that is read the Bible with an open mind

For more about “Boot-camp Christians” see Conservative Christian – “Career buck private?” And as noted in “Buck private,” I’d previously said the theme of this blog was that if you really want to be all that you can be, you need to go on and explore the “mystical side of Bible reading.*” In other words, exploring the mystical side of the Bible helps you “be all that you can be.” See Slogans of the U.S. Army – Wikipedia, re: the recruiting slogan from 1980 to 2001.  The image below is courtesy of: “toywonders.com/productcart/pc/catalog/aw30.jpg.” 

http://www.toywonders.com/productcart/pc/catalog/aw30.jpg

Re: “mystical.”  As originally used, mysticism “referred to the Biblical liturgical, spiritual, and contemplative dimensions of early and medieval Christianity.”  See Mysticism – Wikipedia, and the post On originalism.  (“That’s what the Bible was originally about!”)

For an explanation of the Daily Office – where “Dorscribe” came from – see What’s a DOR?

On the Transfiguration – 2020

The Coronavirus – A Blessing In Disguise For Humanity,” and maybe a metamorphosis?

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Welcome to “read the Bible – expand your mind:”

This blog has four main themes. The first is that God will accept anyone. (See John 6:37.) The second is that God wants us to live lives of abundance. (John 10:10.)  The third is that God wants us to do even greater miracles than Jesus did. (John 14:12.) The fourth – and largely overlooked – is that Jesus wants us to read the Bible with an open mind. See Luke 24:45: “Then He” – Jesus – “opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.”

And this thought ties them together:

The best way to live abundantly and do greater miracles than Jesus is – as noted – to read the Bible with an open mind. For more, see the notes or – to expand your mind – see the Intro.

In the meantime:

The most recent major feast day was The Transfiguration of Jesus; August 6, 2020. And just as an aside, we are now in Week 21 of the COVID-19 pandemic. So somehow I want to tie in our eventual recovery from that pandemic to The Transfiguration of Jesus.

Another aside: I’ve always found it really hard to get a good lead image for earlier posts on the Transfiguration. (Most paintings are way too long and narrow, like the one at left. It’s from my 2015 Greatest Miracle post, meaning that I had to wrap the type around the uppermost image, which I don’t like to do.) 

So this year I opted for an image by Googling “covid a blessing to earth images.” I got the topmost image by first Googling Transfiguration Synonyms at Thesaurus.com. (And finding an article on how the Covid is “giving the planet a break.”)

Among the synonyms for transfiguration were advance, revision, and transformation. Somehow that led me to consider the transformation we here on earth are – and will continue to be – going through. Partly because of the Covid, but also because there may be some silver linings to this cloud. And how all that may relate to the Transfiguration of Jesus itself…

In order of posting, I wrote about this Feast Day in 2015’s Transfiguration – The Greatest Miracle in the World, then again in On the Transfiguration of Jesus – 2016. And see also last year’s (2019’s) “On to Jerusalem!” That post came up when I typed “Transfiguration” in the search box above right, but I’m not sure why. (After a quick review of the post.) But it’s an interesting commentary on pilgrimages in general, and especially my 2019 pilgrimage to Israel.

Which I could also say about Transfiguration of Jesus – 2016.

It’s an interesting commentary that Includes the image at right, tied to the idea how the Transfiguration “fulfilled a centuries-old dream for Moses.” Briefly, God kept Moses from entering the Promised Land. (Deuteronomy 32:48-52.) But in the Transfiguration, both Moses and Elijah joined Jesus at the top Mount Tabor (Matthew 17:3, e.g.), well inside the Promised Land. In other words, it took a thousand years after he died for Moses to finally enter the Promised Land. And again, that happened when he appeared with Jesus atop Mount Tabor:

Moses finally entered the Promised Land – [at] the Transfiguration – albeit a Millennium after he expected…  Moses died some seven miles due east of the northern end of the Sea of Galilee, inside Jordan [on Mount Nebo], while in the Transfiguration he “met up” with Jesus on Mount Tabor, inside Israel and 11 miles west of the Sea of Galilee.

But getting back to Transfiguration … 2016. (And its interesting commentary.) It gave me some points to add on today’s topic. I published the post just before a summer-of-2016 pilgrimage – actually two pilgrimages – the first involving a “mountain” hike, and second a canoe trip:

Next Tuesday – July 26 – I’ll be heading north to Skagway… From there I’ll spend four days hiking the Chilkoot Trail(The ‘meanest 33 miles in history.’) Once that’s done, my brother and I will spend 16 days canoeing down the Yukon River, from Whitehorse to Dawson City.

Three days later – still driving from Utah through British Columbia up to Skagway – I posted an update. And the beginning of the update cited 2015’s “Greatest Miracle in the World:”

Transfiguration “stands as an allegory of the transformative nature” of the Bible-faith. (Indicating a “marked change…”) Other key quotes from the post include that God has His own time-table [and] that as a result, Bible-explorers generally learn quickly that patience is definitely a virtue. Which definitely applied to Moses. The thing is, while Moses was allowed to view the Promised Land … he wasn’t allowed to actually enter the Promised Land. That is, not until a thousand years or so after he died. 

A couple notes. First, some people consider the Transfiguration “the greatest” because unlike the other miracles of Jesus, this one happened to Him. (In all the other miracles Jesus did things for other people. Also, some might consider the Resurrection “the Greatest Miracle.”)  

The post also noted that Bible-explorers learn fast that patience is a virtue. Which applied to Moses, and now certainly applies to all of us suffering through the uncertainty and tragedy of a plague that seems like it will never end. But Moses probably thought along the same lines as we do today. In his case, “I spent all this time helping getting this rebellious people to their Promised Land, and I don’t even get to go in?” In our case, “When will this ever end?”

Moving on: According to Merriam Webster, “transfiguration” can refer to this Christian feast. Or to a change in form or appearance, or to a METAMORPHOSIS. In turn, a metamorphosis is a change of physical form, structure, or substance especially by supernatural means,” or a “striking alteration in appearance, character, or circumstances.”

Simply put, in the current plague we are surely going through a metamorphosis. In the case of the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been a striking “alteration in circumstances.” And since the change was so unexpected – mostly because we thought such plagues were a thing of the past – that change in circumstance seems, to many, to have occurred by supernatural means. (Notwithstanding a number of conspiracy theories abounding these days, by which secular types search for more sinister answers.)

But getting back to the point: What is it that makes the Transfiguration special?

Just that it’s “a pivotal moment,” like the one we’re going through now. It’s a moment where the mountain setting is presented “as the point where human nature meets God: the meeting place for the temporal and the eternal, with Jesus himself as the connecting point.”

And you could say the same thing about COVID-19. It’s another moment “where human nature meets God.” And where – if we play our cards right – we can reconnect with Jesus in a way we couldn’t have before. In other words, in this crisis we are definitely being “weighed in the balances.” Which means we don’t want to end up like Belshazzar, in Daniel, Chapter 5.

There the key phrase was, “Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin.” (Daniel 5:25.) Which is being interpreted, “Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting.” So as a result of the current pandemic we certainly don’t want to be “found wanting,” by God.

Something to think about…

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Have we seen the Handwriting on the wall,’ as a result of the COVID pandemic?

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The upper image is courtesy of COVID-19 gave the planet a break. Now’s the time to keep up. The caption – as noted – is from Coronavirus Might Be The Biggest Blessing In Disguise. Which is another way of saying Every cloud has a silver lining. See also Every Cloud Has A Silver Lining – Deep English. Among other things, that post said when the Bubonic plague hit London in 1606, a young playwright named William Shakespeare “used the lockdown to his advantage.” And ours, “even to this day…”

The “greatest miracle in the world” is from Thomas Aquinas. He “considered the Transfiguration ‘the greatest miracle’ in that it complemented baptism and showed the perfection of life in Heaven.”

The lower image is courtesy of Belshazzar’s feast – Wikipedia. The “Handwriting on the wall” verses – see also Idioms by The Free Dictionary – are found at Daniel 5:25-28. And technically speaking, the phrase “Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting” is found only at Daniel 5:27, and applies only to the word “TEKEL.”

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As noted in the opening blurb, this blog has four main themes. The first is that God will accept anyone. (John 6:37, with the added-on phrase, “Anyone who comes to Him.”) The second is that God wants us to live abundantly.  (John 10:10.) The third is that we should do greater miracles than Jesus. (John 14:12). A fourth theme: The only way to do all that is read the Bible with an open mind. See the Wikipedia article, which talks about its opposite:

…closed-mindedness, or an unwillingness to consider new ideas, can result from the brain’s natural dislike for ambiguity. According to this view, the brain has a “search and destroy” relationship with ambiguity and evidence contradictory to people’s current beliefs tends to make them uncomfortable… Research confirms that belief-discrepant-closed-minded persons have less tolerance for cognitive inconsistency

See also Splitting (psychology) – Wikipedia, on the phenomenon also called black-and-white thinking, “the failure in a person’s thinking to bring together the dichotomy of both positive and negative qualities of the self and others into a cohesive, realistic whole. It is a common defense mechanism. The individual tends to think in extremes (i.e., an individual’s actions and motivations are all good or all bad with no middle ground).

So anyway, in plain words this blog takes issue with boot-camp Christians. The Biblical literalists who never go “beyond the fundamentals.” But the Bible offers so much more than their narrow reading can offer… (Unless you want to stay a Bible buck private all your life…) Now about “Boot-camp Christians.” See for example, Conservative Christian – “Career buck private?” The gist of that post is that starting the Bible is like Army Basic Training. You begin by“learning the fundamentals.” But after boot camp, you move on to Advanced Individual Training.” And as noted in the opening blurb, this blog has four main themes. The first is that God will accept anyone. (John 6:37, with the added, “Anyone who comes to Him.”) The second is that God wants us to live abundantly. (John 10:10.) The third is that we should do greater miracles than Jesus. (John 14:12). A fourth theme: The only way to do all that is read the Bible with an open mind

For more about “Boot-camp Christians” see Conservative Christian – “Career buck private?” And as noted in “Buck private,” I’d previously said the theme of this blog was that if you really want to be all that you can be, you need to go on and explore the “mystical side of Bible reading.*” In other words, exploring the mystical side of the Bible helps you “be all that you can be.” See Slogans of the U.S. Army – Wikipedia, re: the recruiting slogan from 1980 to 2001.  The image below is courtesy of: “toywonders.com/productcart/pc/catalog/aw30.jpg.” 

http://www.toywonders.com/productcart/pc/catalog/aw30.jpg

Re: “mystical.”  As originally used, mysticism “referred to the Biblical liturgical, spiritual, and contemplative dimensions of early and medieval Christianity.”  See Mysticism – Wikipedia, and the post On originalism.  (“That’s what the Bible was originally about!”)

For an explanation of the Daily Office – where “Dorscribe” came from – see What’s a DOR?

On Mary Magdalene, 2020 – and Week 19 of “the Covid…”

I just got back from 4 days’ canoeing on the Missouri River – and no, the river wasn’t this low…

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As the photo-caption above says, I just returned from a 4-day canoe trip on the Missouri River – 115 river miles, from South Sioux City to Omaha Nebraska. (Two weeks in all – three days’ drive out, four days back, the rest setting up or packing up.) Specifically, I got back last Friday, July 17.

And my last post was on June 20, Remembering Monday, May 18, 1992. (Including the image at right, it talked about the day I did my first Daily Office (Bible) Reading, on May 18, 1992.)

Which all means that I haven’t done a lot of posting lately on liturgical seasons or feast days. And on that note, the feast day for Mary Magdalene was Wednesday, July 22.

I’ve done a number of posts on this Mary “Maudlin,” including last year’s On Mary Magdalene – and all those “rules and regulations.” Also, On Mary Magdalene, and “conserving talents(from 2018), 2015’s On Mary Magdalene, “Apostle to the Apostles,” and – from 2017 – On Mary of Magdala and James the Greater, Saints. (I.e., Mary’s Feast Day – July 22 – is followed by this particular James’ Feast Day, July 25.)

Last year’s post emphasized one indisputable: That Mary Magdalene showed way more courage and faith than the 11 male disciples, when push came to shove. Which is why St. Augustine called her the “Apostle to the Apostles.” See also Mary of Magdala | FutureChurch:

Mary of Magdala is perhaps the most maligned and misunderstood figure in early Christianity…  Since the fourth century, she has been portrayed as a prostitute and public sinner…   Paintings, some little more than pious pornography, reinforce the mistaken belief that sexuality, especially female sexuality, is shameful, sinful, and worthy of repentance.  Yet the actual biblical account of Mary of Magdala paints a far different portrait than that of the bare-breasted reformed harlot of Renaissance art.

In turn that 2019 post cited 2018’s Mary Magdalene, and “conserving talents.” That was an early post exploring the idea of conservative Christians “playing it too safe.” That is, choosing not to explore the “rich tapestry of life.” That led me to conclude that “There’s no such thing as a ‘conservative Christian.’” (“It’s an oxymoron.”) Then too, that rules and regulations post brought up a standard conservative – and sometimes “Conservative Christian” – rant, that “all immigrants must follow all the rules and regulations.” 

On that note, the post pointed out that Jesus – by His own admission – came into the world to save sinners, not those who blindly “follow all the rules and regulations.” (Mark 2:17, and 1st Timothy 1:15.) Which certainly applied to Mary, that “bare-breasted reformed harlot.”

Which brings up “the letter versus the spirit of the law.” That is, the “idiomatic antithesis” about those who “obey the letter of the law but not its spirit.” In a sentence, “Intentionally following the letter of the law but not the spirit” can be done by “exploiting technicalitiesloopholes, and ambiguous language.” And it’s based on 2d Corinthians 3:6, “This” – the Gospel of Jesus – “is a covenant not of written laws, but of the Spirit. The old written covenant ends in death; but under the new covenant, the Spirit gives life.” That is, life in abundance. (John 10:10.)  

Which all leads us to July 25, the Feast Day for James, son of Zebedee. He’s one of several “James” in the New Testament, but this James is also called “St. James the Greater.” And incidentally, this St. James is the Patron Saint of Pilgrims. (Seen at left. See also Mary of Magdala and James the Greater, Saints.)

And speaking of pilgrimages – like my recent one down the Missouri River – see also the September 2016 post On St. James, Steinbeck, and sluts: “The point being that I’ve gone on a few pilgrimages in my time, and am fixing to go on another one this September.” September 2017 that is. That year my Adventurous Brother and I hiked the Camino de Santiago in Spain. (The French Way. Also, in the Sluts post, I noted that in the spiritual literature of Christianity, the concept of pilgrim and pilgrimage may refer to “the inner path of the spiritual aspirant from a state of wretchedness to a state of beatitude.”)

The post also said a pilgrimage can be  “one of the most chastening, but also one of the most liberating” of personal experiences.  Which happened on 2016’s Chilkoot Trail hike:

For my part, I certainly felt “chastened” after we got back to Skagway from the Chilkoot Trail.(Although the 10-of-12 beers that my nephew and I shared – of the two six-packs I bought – helped a lot too.)  And I had a blister-on-a-blister that got infected – that didn’t fully heal until three weeks after the hike – to further heighten the feeling of getting “chastened.”

So this post celebrates both Mary Magdalene, as “the Apostle to the Apostles,” and St. James as the Patron Saint of Pilgrims. And speaking of pilgrimages, they can also be a way to “escape a plague.” Or at least get away from it for four days or so. (But see also A Pilgrimage during the time of the Black Plague, but that’s a whole ‘nother story.)

Meanwhile, we always have “the Risen Christ” to fall back on…

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 Mary Magdalene – first to see the Risen Christ – thus Apostle to the Apostles…”

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The upper image is courtesy of Lower Missouri River – Image Results. “The image was accompanied by a 2012 article from the Sioux City Journal, about how the low water level – eight years ago – could hurt boating and tourism.” I borrowed the image from a post on my companion blog, On my “new” Missouri River canoe trip, from July 5, 2020. That post was a preview, and I’ll be writing a postmortem – not literally – in a future post. As in an analysis or study of a recently completed event. The caption for the photo originally said, “I just heard the Lower Missouri River near Sioux City was pretty low. Could it be this bad?” Quick answer: It wasn’t.  

As to “Week 19 of ‘the Covid'” in the post title, see On St. Philip and St. James – May, 2020. There I explained that, to me, “the pandemic hit full swing – the ‘stuff really hit the fan’ – back on Thursday, March 12,” when the ACC basketball tournament got cancelled, along with other major sports. “So my definition of the ‘First Full Week of the Covid-19 Pandemic’ has it starting on Sunday, March 15 and ending on Saturday the 21st.”

Re: Pilgrimage to escape plague. See for example, “Flight of the townspeople into the country to escape from the Plague, 1630,” seen below, courtesy of Pilgrimage Escape Plagues – Image Results.

The lower image is courtesy of Rembrandt – The Risen Christ Appearing to Mary Magdalen. (It’s the lead image in Mary Magdalene, and “conserving talents.“)  See also On Easter Season – AND BEYOND.  The full caption: “The Risen Christ Appearing to Mary Magdalen, by Rembrandt (1638).”  And speaking of “racy,” the artist Titian did two versions of Mary crying.  For the “racier” – 1533 – version see Penitent Magdalene (Titian, 1533) – Wikipedia.

The Penitent Magdalene is a 1565 oil painting by Titian of saint Mary Magdalene, now in the Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg.  Unlike his 1533 version of the same subject, Titian has covered Mary’s nudity and introduced a vase, an open book and a skull as a memento mori.  Its coloring is more mature than the earlier work, using colors harmoni[z]ing with character.  In the background the sky is bathed in the rays of the setting sun, with a dark rock contrasting with the brightly lit figure of Mary.

For more on this “Mary,” see On Mary of Magdala and James the Greater, Saints, and also MARY MAGDALENE, Bible Woman: first witness to Resurrection, and What Did Mary Magdalene look like?

Pentecost 2020 – “Learn what is pleasing to the Lord…”

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We’re just starting the 12th full week of the COVID-19 pandemic

Meanwhile, May 31, 2020, was Pentecost Sunday. That’s the 49th day (seventh sunday) after Easter Sunday, and it commemorates “the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and other followers of Jesus Christ while they were in Jerusalem celebrating the Feast of Weeks.” (As described in the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 2:1–31.)

It’s also known as the Birthday of the Church, as noted in 2015’s Pentecost – “Happy Birthday, Church.” There’s more on Pentecost below, but first I want to talk about one of the Daily Bible Readings for last Friday, May 29.

It was from Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians. (The church at Ephesus, an “ancient Greek city on the coast of Ionia, three kilometres southwest of present-day Selçuk in İzmir ProvinceTurkey.) And notably the “theme may be stated pragmatically as ‘Christians, get along with each other!‘” But the verse that caught my eye – last Friday – was Ephesians 5:10.

In the New Revised Standard Version, “Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord.” But see also the Berean Study Bible: “Test and prove what pleases the Lord.” And the Weymouth New Testament reads, “learn in your own experiences what is fully pleasing to the Lord.”

In other words, Bible study – and following The Faith of Christ – is not a matter of fitting yourself into a pre-formed cubby hole, or becoming a “carbon-copy Christian.” It’s a matter of finding out what the Bible means to you, as an individual. (“We are supposed to create nimshalim for ourselves,” as noted in On three suitors (a parable).) And all that was pretty much what I was trying to say – again – in my last post “As a spiritual exercise:”

What matters is what you do with your faith and your life. What matters is how you follow the Bible… In other words if you work with [a] kind of “canary in a coal mine” spiritual exercise you could end up with all the proof you need: That there is a God, who is willing to work with you, and a “happy ending…”

So Ephesians 5:10 supports my theory that “the ‘factual accuracy’ of the Bible is pretty much irrelevant to an advanced Christian faith.” That is, a faith that goes “beyond the fundamentals” and doesn’t require that every word in the Bible be “inerrant.” (So too it seems to me that it “doesn’t seem to matter if a so-called expert found the actual ark used by Noah.”)

Note also Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers, which said “to prove” is a work partly of thought and “partly of practical experience.” Or consider the Pulpit Commentary:

To prove is to ascertain by test and experiment. Our whole walk should be directed to finding out what things are pleasing to Christ… We are not to follow the tradition of our people, and not to take a vague view of duty; we are to prove the matter, to put it to the test. For the supreme practical rule of the Christian’s life must be to please Christ.

Which in turn is supported by 1st Thessalonians 5:21. In the Good News Translation, “Put all things to the test: keep what is good.” And in the Aramaic Bible in Plain English, “Explore everything and hold what is excellent.” Or as I said in On reading the Bible:

That’s what this blog is about: Developing into more than just someone who knows the bare “fundamentals.”  Which is another way of saying that by reading the Bible with an open mind, you can reap its full benefit and do all that God intended for you to do.

Then there’s the Wesleyan Quadrilateral. That’s a method of theological reflection – of personal spiritual growth – credited to John Wesley. (At right.) Wesley said that there are four sources available for such personal spiritual growth: Scripturetradition, reason, and Christian experience:

Apart from scripture, experience is the strongest proof of Christianity… Wesley insisted that we cannot have reasonable assurance of something unless we have experienced it personally… Although traditional proof is complex, experience is simple… Although tradition establishes the evidence a long way off, experience makes it present to all persons.

Note that Scripture – the Bible – “is the first authority and contains the only measure whereby all other truth is tested.” Which brings us back to Pentecost Sunday. And, “from an historical point of view, Pentecost is the day on which the church was started.”

Thus “Happy Birthday, Church!” 

Pentecost also marks the start of “Ordinary Time,” as it’s called in the Catholic Church. And that “Ordinary Time” takes up over half the church calendar year, as shown in the chart below.

That “long season” started May 31st, and will end on November 29, the First Sunday of Advent 2020. And the Pentecost described in Acts 2 (v. 1- 41) “was a momentous, watershed event.” 

For the first time in history, God empowered “all different sorts of people for ministry. Whereas in the era of the Old Testament, the Spirit was poured out almost exclusively on prophets, priests, and kings,” on the Day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit went to “‘all people.’ All would be empowered to minister regardless of their gender, age, or social position.” 

Which is a pretty good way to celebrate the Birthday of the Church…

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 “Ordinary Time” – at left – takes up over half the Church year…

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The upper image is courtesy of Try Learn What Is Pleasing To The Lord – Image Results.

Re: Weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic. See St. Philip and St. James – May, 2020. I figured the “stuff hit the fan” on Thursday, March 12, “when the ACC basketball tournament got cancelled.” Thus,my definition of the ‘First Full Week of the Covid-19 Pandemic’ has it starting on Sunday, March 15.

Text and images on Pentecost were gleaned from prior posts, On the readings for Pentecost (6/8/14); On Pentecost – “Happy Birthday, Church!” (2015); and Ascension Day and Pentecost – 2016.

The full Bible readings for Friday, May 29, 2020 are: “AM Psalm 102; PM Psalm 107:1-32, Jeremiah 31:27-34; Ephesians 5:1-20; and Matthew 9:9-17.

Re: Pentecost and the Holy Spirit given to all. See What is Pentecost? Why Does It Matter? – Patheos.

The John Wesley image is courtesy of Wikipedia. Caption: “Statue of Wesley outside Wesley Church in Melbourne, Australia.”

See the Ordinary Time image in 2015’s Pentecost – “Happy Birthday, Church.”

“As a spiritual exercise…”

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As a Spiritual Exercise, back in 1989 I started looking for new ways to “help” my favorite college team – Florida State University – win its first football national championship… (The image at right shows the 1524 book, Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola. I just used a different method.)

At first it was a matter of finding the right ritual sacrifice, in the form of exercise, and especially aerobics. (Initially a series of wind sprints over a 3-mile course; the goal was to finish the three miles in an ever-faster speed.)

It was only later – in the spring of 1992 – that I added the discipline of Daily Bible Reading. And just as an aside, during that next football season – in the fall of 1993, and after much drama, with twists and turns of fate – the Noles squeaked by Nebraska to win that first national title. (In a game they were expected to win easily.)

In the 27-plus years that followed – 30-plus, if you go back to 1989 – FSU football won two more national titles. (For a more complete listing of such “wins,” see On my “mission from God,” and “Unintended consequences” – and the search for Truth, including the image at left.) But there have been a number of heart-breaks as well, including losing the national-title game at the end of the 1996 season. (To our arch-rival Gators, no less.) And the past two seasons have been especially bad, with the Noles suffering back-to-back losing seasons.

On the other hand I’ve learned a lot of valuable spiritual lessons along the way.

Then too, this “spiritual exercise” has given me lots of insight into how the original Children of Israel must have felt when they did all the right things – and yet ended up conquered and sent into exile. (The functional equivalent of having back-to-back losing seasons for the first time in a dog’s years? And especially after establishing a 14-year college football dynasty?)

What brings all that to mind is the recent series of Daily Office Old Testament readings. Those recent Daily Office readings reminded me of all the twists and turns, the add-ons and “do not do” list of things that thwarted spiritual progress for Moses. And for his success on the field.

For example, that recent string of Daily Bible readings had a set rules and regulations – starting with Leviticus 8:1-13,30-36 – back on Sunday, May 10 (2020). And they’ve have been jumping around ever since. (After starting at Chapter 8 – and after leaving Exodus 40, 18 to 38, on Saturday the 9th – they jumped from 16 to 19 to 23, and so on, “to this day.” Exodus 40, for example, goes into great detail on “Setting Up the Tabernacle.”)

The point is that – over the past 30-plus years – I too have gleaned a number of “thou shalts” and “thou shalt nots.” (Not unlike those of Moses, set out in Leviticus.) Rules like “Thou shalt not listen to Panzerlied* on your iPod Shuffle in the days leading up to a game.” Or “thou shalt listen to ‘We Are the Champions‘ whenever it comes up, on your Shuffle or the radio.” (Because it brings good karma.) Also, “Thou shalt have thy monthly church-tithe check in the office safe before a game starts, at or near the first of the month.” And so on… Of course those rules haven’t guaranteed success, but neither did Moses’ rules and regulations, listed in Leviticus over the past weeks in the Daily Office.

So just like Moses – and especially like those who tried to follow his rules “to the letter” – for the past 31 years or so, I’ve been “working with God,” trying to get Him to help my teams win. But again, it hasn’t always worked out. And so you could easily say there have been far more disappointments and heartbreaks. On the other hand, by combining my Ritual Sacrifice with Daily Bible reading, I’ve learned some valuable spiritual lessons.

For one thing – again – I’ve experienced how those early Hebrews must have felt, when they thought they’d done everything right. But then – for whatever inexplicable reason – they were disappointed if not shocked by how bad things turned out. I’m sure they felt like saying to God, “You OWE me. I did everything You asked, and this is how you treat me?”

But along the way I’ve also learned – based on my own experience – that there was and is some kind of causality at work. That is, there was and is some mysterious “Force” out there which (or Who) responded to my prayers and sacrifice, ritual or otherwise. Though many times not in the way I expected…

Another thing I’ve learned – over the past 31 years, and a host of both disappointments and triumphs. I’ve become convinced – by and through my day to day interactions with this “Force” – that the “factual accuracy” of the Bible is pretty much irrelevant to an advanced Christian faith. That is, to me, it doesn’t seem to matter if a so-called expert says he’s found the actual ark used by Noah somewhere in Turkey.

Or whether Jesus feeding the 5,000 is just a miracle, “taken only on faith,” or a parable whose lesson is that if we followed the example of Jesus, we could end world hunger “tomorrow.”

What matters is what you do with your faith and your life. What matters is how you follow the Bible, and in doing so follow the example of Jesus. And for that matter His disciples (including Paul, that “Johnny come lately” who wrote like a lawyer, with so many lawyer-like convolutions).

In other words if you work with this kind of “canary in a coal mine” spiritual exercise, you could end up with all the proof you need: That there is a God, and that “He” is willing to work with you, and that somewhere along the line, there’s a “happy ending…” And it can all come by and through the “spiritual discipline” of daily Bible reading, combined with your own version of a “canary-slash-coal-mine” way of keeping on the straight and narrow.

And incidentally (on a related note), next Thursday, May 21, is Ascension Day. For more on that feast day see 2014’s On Ascension Day and subsequent posts listed in the notes.

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The upper image is courtesy of Spiritual Exercise – Image Results. Also, the image to the right of the first full paragraph refers to the “Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola (Latin original: Exercitia spiritualia),” with the caption, “Exercitia spiritualia, 1548 First Edition by Antonio Bladio (Rome).”

A note on the post title. It’s similar in style to a Papal bull, that is, it’s “first few words of the text,” the incipit, i.e., “the first few Latin words from which the bull took its title for record keeping purposes, but which might not be directly indicative of the bull’s purpose.” See Wikipedia.

Re: Panzerlied. I first heard it in a 1965 film, see Battle of the Bulge (film) – Wikipedia. It’s a rousing song that goes well with road trips or picking up trash in a diesel-powered golf cart for the local branch of Keep America Beautiful. Unfortunately it has negative connotations having to do with the murder of “Jews, gypsies and fairies.” For more on the song see Wikipedia, or for a live version Panzerlied (Battle of the Bulge with english intro) – YouTube. For more on “Jews, gypsies and fairies,” see Slaughterhouse-Five Quotes | Shmoop: “The British had no way of knowing it, but the candles and the soap were made from the fat of rendered Jews and Gypsies and fairies and communists, and other enemies of the State. (5.14.4).”

See Thou Shalt Not – Image Results. And Thou Shalt Not (musical) – Wikipedia.

The causality image is courtesy of Causality – Image Results.

Re: Ascension Day. See also On Ascension Day 2015, Ascension Day and Pentecost – 2016, and Ascension Day 2017 – “Then He opened their minds.”

The lower image is courtesy of Canary Coal Mine – Image Results. This particular image accompanied an article, “Idioms in the news: Canary in the Coal Mine[,] ShareAmerica,” from November 2014: “Someone/something that is an early warning of danger.” An earlier image – “now defunct,” since the original post – was accompanied by an article, “I am the canary in the coal mine,” which also explained the idiom:

The tradition at that time – to foretell the toxic environment down in the [coal] mine – was for the miners to take a canary down with them on their daily journey… The canary is very susceptible to the toxic gases that were common in the mines, and would die when the gases were at a toxic level – signaling to the miners that they had to immediately exit.

See also canary in a coal mine – Wiktionary, about a thing sensitive to adverse conditions, which “makes it a useful early indicator of such conditions; something which warns of the coming of greater danger or trouble by a deterioration in its health or welfare.”

In my case, if I was doing something wrong in my daily life, a loss by FSU or “another team of mine” would indicate the need to stop doing that! (Not unlike the old Henny Youngman joke, where a patient says, “Doctor, it hurts when I do this.” To which the doctor replies, “Then don’t do that!” See Henry Youngman Jokes – Henry Youngman One Liners Jokes.)